Sherry Abraham is a co-founder and president of Women First. Begun as a mutual support group for women diagnosed with breast cancer, Women First has expanded to address a wide variety of women’s' health issues.
Sherry has been and continues to be the heart, head and hands of this all-volunteer organization, along with Judy Hester. Her common sense, get-it-done approach means she devotes 20 to 30 hours every week to priority projects. Her spirit and extraordinary accomplishments are best captured in her own modest words. “Five of us with breast cancer sat around a picnic table and decided we would meet to give support to each other. Pretty soon we were passing the hat to buy food for someone who needed more than we did.
After burning up two computers doing flyers and research, we sat down and wrote a simple set of bylaws so we could become a nonprofit. We decided if we were really going to help women, we needed a permanent place, so we wrote and received a $20,000 grant from the E.R. Carpenter Foundation. We now utilize a 10-room house and we're using every foot of it! We survive on grants, donations and prayers. All our programs and services are free and everyone is equally welcome.” Sherry and co-founder Judy Hester have expanded their support groups, educational programs and food assistance services throughout the state of Mississippi. Sherry is active with the National Breast Cancer Coalition and speaks frequently on cancer awareness and related issues. She has advocated with members of Congress and in a variety of state and local media outlets.Just take Cook Street north until the pavement ends in Palm Desert, CA. Continue another half mile and you enter an atmosphere so powerful that one visit can change your life. There in the riding ring is Lori Sarner age 72, hearing impaired, the volunteer president and head equine therapist of Pegasus, who praises, lifts, leads and literally rescues some of the most severely disabled children and adults from a life of handicapped anonymity.
Pegasus Riding Academy for the Handicapped is a place where children and adults of all ages and all types of handicaps can come for medically approved equine therapy. Pegasus serves a multitude of handicapped organization as well as independent living riders. Classes are tailored to the individual disability.
In 1986, Lori Sarner began to volunteer at this fledging organization which had two horses, three handicapped riders and was on the brink of financial ruin. Twenty years and 10,000 volunteer hours later, Lori Sarner has built Pegasus into an organization where over 4,600 certified handicapped persons have received full body range of motion exercise on horseback called equine therapy. Most of the handicapped children come from working poor and indigent circumstances. Pegasus is the only exercise this group receives.
The walking motion of the horse’s body against human legs massages all muscles used in the human walk and is an inspiring and exciting experience for those whose life is spent in a wheelchair. Each rider is gently eased into a program of therapy geared to the needs of physically impaired people to help them develop usable muscles and joints. Immobility causes good muscles to atrophy which leads to further problems for a handicapped person. At Pegasus we try to strengthen muscles and joints by these exercises. All Pegasus volunteers working with riders receive special training for this work and must have the patience and sensitivity to do it.
In addition to Pegasus, Lori Sarner has also found time to volunteer at Act for MS, The Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony, The Angel View Homes for Crippled Children, The Foundation for the Retarded, The Institute of Critical Care Medicine, Desert Samaritans for the Elderly, The Desert Museum, The Assistance League and The American Cancer Society.